Whether you were aware of it or not, you’ve likely heard a song written by the New Radicals frontman Gregg Alexander. While the New Radicals only ever released one record—Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too?, which itself produced arguably the most timeless one hit wonder in music history “You Get What You Give” (this writer’s all time favourite song)—Alexander would go on to enjoy a successful career as a song-writer for artists such as Beyoncé, Ronan Keating, The Kaiser Chiefs, Enrique Iglesias, The Struts, and even Santana—just to name a few. Alexander even received a Grammy Award for writing the song “Game of Love” by Santana and Michelle Branch. Despite the countless hits he had written for other artists, it is still the New Radicals one record wonder Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too? that stands as Alexander’s crowning achievement as a musical artist.
While the New Radicals are most best remembered for their proverbial one hit wonder “You Get What You Give”, and for good reason, their one and only record is a musical odyssey the likes of which is rare to come by. While a product of the turn of the century alternative scene, the New Radicals sound was influenced undoubtedly by pop rock greats such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Gregg Alexander’s soaring vocals have the flair of Mick Jagger and his song writing style following in the footsteps of Lennon and McCartney.
The record opens with the uplifting anthem “Mother We Just Can’t Get Enough” before transitioning into the iconic “You Get What You Give”—a song that has not only become a nostalgia piece for many, but it also proves to be a song that transcends any era. The themes, earnest lyrics, and delivery of “You Get What You Give”, like any truly great song, made it timeless. It is ultimately the centrepiece of the record and is no doubt the most recognisable track of the lot, due to its use in countless films and television series. While a song of this nature would be hokey in a less talented song writers hands, Alexander gives us a genuinely moving track that is as inspiring as it is catchy. His honest and frank delivery of the lines, “Don’t give up, you’ve got a reason to live; can’t forget, you only get what you give,” is a true highlight of the piece—alongside the final spoken word verse, which is essentially Alexander putting the ills of society on blast: taking on the American health insurance system, big banks, and fake celebrities. The song is still just as relevant today as it was in 1999, at the turn of the century, and maybe it always will be. After all, “What’s real, can’t die.”
The record also features incredible tracks such as title track “Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too?”—a track that would fit right in on The Beatles (White Album). It is an experimental pop rock sonic odyssey across five minutes and twenty-one seconds which will leave you wondering what you just listened to—and just as eager to hit replay on it.
Aside from “You Get What You Give”, the New Radicals also released “Someday We’ll Know” as the only other single off the album. The track is a moving bit of pop rock, and rounds off the record nicely as one of the more grounded tracks on an album that ventures in just about every musical direction Alexander could possibly conceive of at the time. It is this experimental and free-form style that has actually made the record transcendent. Listening to this record twenty years later, it is every bit as affecting as it was back in 1999—perhaps even more so.
Like fine wine, some music is better with age. Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too? is an enigma of a record from the mind of one of music’s quiet achievers who, like his record, is every bit as enigmatic. While the record is rather obscure and mostly lost to time, save for the one hit wonder “You Get What You Give” still on the radio waves daily across the globe, this record has the same quality of a Beatles record. There is a timeless, yet nostalgic quality to it that transcends any era of music. Just as there can be no replacement for The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, there can only ever be one Gregg Alexander and his band, The New Radicals. Choosing to opt out of the spotlight at the height of their popularity, Alexander stood true to the words he sang. If you’ve never listened to this earnest piece of pop rock history, do yourself a favour and journey back to 1999. Maybe you’re about to be brainwashed too?